Kuskokwim River Rots, Ice Moves at Kalskag

by Ben Matheson on April 28, 2014

The Kuskokwim River is rotting out both above and below Bethel. The ice moved near Kalskag this weekend and formed a half a mile lead above Kalskag. Earl Samuelson is a pilot for state troopers and flew the river Saturday. He spotted very weak ice below lower Kalskag.

Near the mouth, the Tuntutuliak river went out in the last few days. Other tributaries are ice free at the lowest parts of the river. The Kuskokwim river ice edge is near the Kialik river. Samuelson says the Johnson river is very rotten. Kasigluk and Nunapitchuk areas are showing a lot of needle ice. And Napaskiak slough is beginning to break up.

“The Bethel area is starting to show a little weakening, some of the sides are starting to pop up again. The holes above Bethel are starting to open again, it’s getting darker and weaker,” said Samuelson.

Samuelson reports that Church Slough is breaking up, and the Gweek is rotting out. Further upriver, the Kwethuluk river continues to deteriorate with a lot of rotting below the community. Samuelson says there is very weak ice going toward Akiachak and Akiak. Further up river, the Aniak River is out.

“Water levels were still low in the whole river up around Aniak. Summer time levels I’d say. Nothing looked like it was rising fast, the communities looked really well,” said Samuelson.

The river is unsafe for travelers. And Samuelson says people going cross-country need to take extra caution.

“Trying to cross little creeks and sloughs and we’re finding that some are not making it out there. So if you do travel across there, please travel with a companion so if you do get into trouble, you’ll have help to get out,” said Samuelson.

The Alaska River Watch flights are launching Tuesday out of Aniak and Bethel later in the week. Eric Holloway is with the National Weather Service River Forecast Center.

“The biggest issue right now is we’re going to be going into a much warmer period. We’ve been under some sunny skies and conditions like that, but the real warmth comes this weekend. That ought to push water levels up where ice conditions still remain intact,” said Holloway.

In the most recent breakup summary, the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center predicts breakup at Bethel between May 4th and May 11th.

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